Qatar Tourism – The importance of accessibility

15 05 2017

Qatar tourism

Improving Qatar tourism with the Accessible Qatar Conference 2017

Have you ever dreamt of travelling the world but were too afraid of the communication difficulties you’ll inevitably experience? As a deaf person, the sheer effort of day-to-day interactions can be enough to discourage a visit to the grocery store, let alone an exotic travel destination like Qatar.

The small Arab nation jutting out from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf is the world’s richest country, with the highest GDP per capita ($140,649) as of 2016. By taking advantage of their natural gas and oil resources, they have made wise investments into the Qatar tourism industry. People from all around the world are eager to explore Qatar’s exciting desert life, have fun at the Aqua Park and relax on one of their many beaches.

Travelling when deaf or hard of hearing can be challenging, especially because our needs have been largely ignored in the disability movement. Staying abroad in a hotel is a huge safety concern, due to the lack of properly adapted alerting systems. Also, we can’t use the telephone services to call the reception desk when we need something. This is very inconvenient, and that’s before even leaving the “comfort” of your hotel.


Live captioning comes to South Africa

30 04 2015

Live Captioning at a university in Cape Town, South Africa.

The client connects to the captioning service via a microphone set up in the classroom. The captioner hears what is being said and writes the text back – coming up live on your device in 1 second. Your device can be a laptop, smartphone, Google Glass, Kindle…. whatever connects to the internet.

Used effectively in classrooms, meeting, conferences, and teleconference calls – having the text coming up on a big screen and on participants’ own devices in 1 second. Making conversation accessible to all disabilities!

Live captioning enquiries –
Follow on Twitter @121captions

Blog post: Live captioning in South Africa

Pardon? We asked for access in English not BSL – where are our captions?

5 07 2013


The National Disabilities Conference on 4 July in London was organised by Government Knowledge. This is an important event at this moment in time as benefits are being cut, wages are frozen, jobs are cut, and people with disabilities are increasingly marginalised.

In the UK, less than 70,000 deaf people use sign language however there are approximately 10 million deaf and hard of hearing people who do NOT use sign language – they might lipread and/or use their residual hearing, and therefore rely on captions and lipspeakers. We would expect, therefore, that a national conference of this nature about access, inclusion and disability would be accessible to its OWN customers. We would also expect such an event to be accessible without having to fight for such access – which is our right, not a privilege, under the 2010 Equality Act.

NADP (National Association of Deafened People) asked Lidia Best to attend on their behalf. They requested communication support (speech to text) as Lidia is deaf, she does not use sign language. Speech to text support provision at the event was confirmed by the organisers. Delegates were asked to pay almost £300 each to attend and NADP paid a reduced fee.

After NADP’s request for speech to text support, 121 Captions were contacted by Government Knowledge for information on providing captioning for this conference. They did not book any speech to text services.

Lidia turned up to the National Disabilities conference to find only British Sign Language interpreters were available, and there was no speech to text. There was an induction loop but it did not work. A loop can work for some deaf people, but not all deaf people have enough residual hearing to be able to use one. A lipspeaker can work for those deaf people who can lipread, but not all deaf people can read lips. Therefore speech to text is a necessary service.

Mrs Lidia Best, NADP trustee

Mrs Lidia Best, NADP trustee

What is shocking is that such access had been requested by NADP and confirmed by the organisers Government Knowledge. This conference is expensive to attend, but for a disabled person to attend and to find it inaccessible, when it had been confirmed that it would be, is unacceptable. The conference organisers should be making this kind of event affordable and accessible for disabled people on benefits who would be best placed to explain the relevant issues. Government Knowledge say they have provided access for all delegates and have followed all requests – which we know not to be true. Government Knowledge checked their system and they had no special requests for communication support. They asked Lidia if she had organised the speech to text reporters herself. They even blamed Lidia for not telling them.

We have asked the deaf community if any British Sign Language users attended this conference. There has been a deafening silence.

This is a common occurrence for deaf and hard of hearing people who do not sign, to request speech to text at events and find it is not provided, or to turn up and find there are only sign language interpreters. We have had enough. This has got to STOP.

Deafness can happen to anyone. It could happen tomorrow to your friend, your parent, or even YOU.

There are 1 in 6 people in the UK with a hearing loss who don’t sign. Could you be next?

– With thanks to Mrs Lidia Best, NADP Trustee

Support ALL deaf people on Facebook: Pardon? I’m deaf. When will you listen? We need access for All!

Further comments about this event are on Facebook : Disability Rights UK

…. and to add a little more irony, check THIS out – another shining example of our government’s inclusive attitude towards the disadvantaged, where Government Knowledge hosted a conference about financial inclusion… a shame the tickets are £320!

You can join the Deaf People Against Welfare Cuts campaign on Facebook – look out for connected talks and events happening across London.


23 11 2011

Jenny talks about her very special dog, Oscar…..

Oscar is not trained as a hearing dog, as I am hearing. Oscar and I trained with Dog AID (Dog Assistance In Disability.) Most Dog AID dogs are trained to help people who use wheelchairs and/or have walking difficulties. Many also have medical alert roles and act on instinct to put their owner in the recovery position in an emergency, bring the mobile phone and a blanket, and go and get help. Oscar did that without having had that training, it was just natural – when I was stuck in the bath! If the client has a hearing impairment then the dog is also trained to help as a hearing dog too. All breeds are accepted for training, it’s all down to the dogs temperament and bonding. It’s best to carefully choose a puppy and bring it on, than take on a rescue dog, as you can’t be sure of its past.

Oscar is an apricot miniature poodle, he was my best friend’s dog so I have known Oscar a long time, since 2006, my friend (his mummy) died after an operation so it was a bit sudden and unexpected. Oscar had been a child carer – or should I say a puppy carer – for his mummy, so he was a natural. Oscar came to live with me after she died. Oscar reminds me of her so much with his expressions, his zest and enthusiasm filling every moment.

I knew Oscar had the ability to qualify as an Assistance Dog and I needed his skills, so I contacted Dog AID. We were assessed; there was lots of paperwork, vet checks, a medical, OT reports etc and we were then put in touch with a local volunteer Dog AID trainer, who trained me to train Oscar. Oscar and I practised tasks between lessons with the trainer. It took just one year to pass all three exams but a lot of that time was waiting for the next assessment exam and a date for the final full certificate exam. So we both qualified as a team. The hardest part during training was that Oscar wasn’t allowed inside places so we had to eat outside in the weather, but we found 3 doggy-friendly pub restaurants that had wheelchair access. I was still waiting for an accessible kitchen at home so eating out was the solution, albeit expensive, it meant I saw a bit of life too.

Oscar has transformed my life. I don’t ever have to be alone. He smiles as I wake, he brings my clothes and pulls off my PJs, helps in the bathroom, brings anything I need and picks up dropped items, he uses the washing machine, on command he opens a cupboard and gives me a tea towel or anything else I ask for, and closes the door after, he brings the phone when it rings, or when I ask for it, the remotes, my keys, purse, and hands me his bowl when he has finished. When out and about he helps with my wheelchair footplates, he shops in the supermarkets from the lower shelves handing me what I ask for, he hands me dropped items, credit cards, receipts and he even found me a £10 note once and handed it to me. That was the brilliant – we had a good breakfast that day! I then bought Oscar a new toy with it, as how could I use Oscar’s money like that!

Oscar is good at guiding when my eyes are bad, and has a GPS mode – he can find places and gets me to the door safely and at speed even when I don’t want to go there sometimes! When my keys fell under my car, Oscar went under the car and fetched them and handed them to me. Another life saving moment! He undresses me at night, tugging off my socks, shoes, jumper and trousers. He tugs lights on and off, and opens and closes doors. He woke me up once, I noticed I had a blocked nose and there was Oscar with the decongestant spray, just what I needed! So he could do the Medical alert role if I needed it.

Oscar is everything to me, always there for me. He has given me my life back, and I can go out again now. In that way, similar to most people with an assistance dog, people see Oscar and smile, so I do see so many smiles reflected back to me, I love that. People stop and talk to me now. Oscar loves his work so much, particularly new places, new experiences, but its hard to find new wheelchair-accessible ones.

Dog AID currently has 29 qualified dogs working and 70 clients with dogs in training. There is a long waiting list and Dog AID’s volunteer trainers are working to capacity at the moment. Some areas of the UK have no trainers, so to grow they are in need of volunteer trainers to join Dog AID. Dog AID is always looking for more trainers. Everyone at Dog AID is a volunteer but they are fundraising to cover a post in the busy office. Dog AID will have a stand at Crufts again next year as it was such a success this year, growing the number of volunteer dog trainers and raising funds for more training workshops.

We have a lot of foreigners locally, working in the restaurants and smaller shops. It can be hard work to gain access and there seems to be a mysterious ramp stealer about, if I believe what is said….

“No, you can’t come in as someone stole our ramp!”

Every week another crowd of language students and tourists, with no skills in equal access, block the pavements – it’s hard for Oscar too. They dive in for a stroke, using flash to take photos. Poor Oscar is trying to concentrate and we are blocked and surrounded, he is blinded by flash and I am distressed … I have to be assertive or avoid those pavements as I can’t get off them to get around people. So you, like me, are educating the world, there are new challenges everyday.


Appreciate what you have

12 04 2011

This video winged its way to me from Kuwait (thanks Fadi).

Rough Guide to Accessible Britain

24 07 2010


This guide is free if you hold a Blue Badge or Disabled Persons Railcard. The guide is £6.99 for everyone else.

Click on this link to obtain a print guide or audio version. Availability is limited.

I wonder if it’s all about wheelchair accessbility, BSL, hearing loops and braille versions? I’d like to see inclusion of transcripts and captions.

Deaf people can do anything

17 07 2009

I love this video. It reminds me of a time at school when I was 17. One of my teachers said to me “You’ll never make it into university”. Not because I was thick or slow, but because I simply couldn’t hear my teachers. I didn’t have an interpreter or any type of communication aid so I was fighting hard. The teachers taught in English and my classmates would reply in Spanish, which didn’t help. I didn’t need to hear this sh*t as well. And from a teacher! Well, that made me mad. MAD AS HELL.

Mentally, I stuck two fingers up at her and I made it into not one, but 4 universities. I really do believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Deaf or not.

I’ve not been short on the skills either. I’ve worked in retail, law, accounting, teaching, careers consultancy, and have my own businesses. I’ve plenty of deaf friends who are accountants, entrepreneurs, teachers, lawyers….. they are all smart and sassy. They’re deaf. So what? I’d say to any person who is put down by someone else; believe in yourself and go grab your life with both hands. You deserve nothing less.

Foreign coffee shops in England ~ can you understand me?

4 09 2008

Last week I was in Wimbledon and I got bored waiting for my friend to turn up, so I popped into a shop nearby for coffee. It was a little place called Tchibo. A staff member approached me and told me that dogs weren’t allowed in the shop. I explained he’s a Hearing Dog which is an Assistance Dog. She walked away and I thought ‘Whew, that was easy’.

Two minutes later, another staff member walked up and told me that dogs weren’t allowed in the shop. Now, this shop was pretty small and the staff members had been within ten feet of each other. I would’ve thought they could hear conversations quite easily in the shop as it was also very quiet. Or perhaps they just thought I needed telling more than once.

I explained again that my dog is a Hearing Dog, not a pet. That a Hearing Dog has the same rights as a Guide Dog for the Blind. She didn’t believe me. I opened my bag and dug around for his identity cards, one which states he is an official Hearing Dog and one which is an endorsement from the Department of Health. I showed her the cards. I pointed out his Hearing Dogs for Deaf People coat. She said they couldn’t allow dogs in the shop. I explained, yet again, that he has the same rights as a Guide Dog for the Blind. She said … (wait for it) ….

(Assistant) – But you’re not blind!

* Blinking rapidly in disbelief at what she’s just said …
(me) – Too RIGHT I’m not blind! I’m DEAF! And he’s my HEARING DOG! These are his identity cards. Do you think I’m making all this up?!

(Assistant) – You’re very rude!

(me) – No. I’m NOT being rude. I’m simply trying to explain to you my legal rights and your legal duty.

She stood there glaring at me. She just didn’t understand. No matter what I said. I sighed.

(me) – Why don’t you just leave me alone to do my shopping like everyone else?

I then turned around, ignored her, and she left me alone. After I left, I emailed Tchibo’s head office and explained what had happened. I didn’t expect to get a reply at all.

Well, surprise, surprise.

A couple of days later, I got an email from them and they said they were sorry to hear what had happened and would be investigating.

Today, I got a letter from Tchibo customer services. The letter said customer feedback is most valuable to them and they take all complaints very seriously. The sales assistants were not aware of Hearing Dogs at the time of my visit, they said. Ho hum. I had given them some free, personal training and they chose not to listen. Where does ‘not aware’ come in? I was assured this incident would not happen again and they had not intended to cause offence. They are taking steps to ensure such problems do not happen again.

And they apologised. Sincerely.

And they even enclosed a voucher. Wow.

Kudos to them for doing something positive about staff training and deaf awareness, and for being willing to foster good customer relations.

– I might even go back and try those assistants out again *wink*

Thumbs up! Deaf aware pub – True Lovers Knot

4 12 2007

A pub in the Tarrant Valley, Dorset, get a round of applause from me and a virtual medal for being deaf aware.

True Lovers Knot offers a bar and food, accommodation and a child-friendly garden. They have a hearing loop system at the bar, so you can easily order food or drinks. If you are deaf and you book a table, they will set the table different to normal, so there is less ‘visual noise’. To cap it all, their staff are trained in deaf awareness.

They are currently working towards being the first pub in history to be awarded the RNID Louder than Words charter mark. Nationally recognised, the Louder than Words charter mark shows that the awarded organisation offers a fully deaf aware service to employees and customers, and that their needs are taken seriously.

Clap clap clap. More like this please!